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1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.2

The first part of the review can be found here.

So the hull interior is reasonably finished, but I had to add bits and bobs (fire extinguishers, ammunition for the main gun and for the machine guns, etc.). Once I put the driver’s periscopes in place, I could close down the hull. The top part is really thin; I suspect it’s quite close to scale thickness.

Fitting the mudgards was not straightforward: the locator pins did not fit into the corresponding holes on the sides, so there was a tiny gap between the mudguards and the tank’s hull. I simply shaved the pins off. The plastic mudgards are quite thin, and the long parts had a slight bend; the solution was to glue them in place in two steps, straightening them out in the process.
The drive wheels have very small attachment points to the swing arms; since it’s a static model it’s not a real problem, but I still prefer a bit more robust connection.
The tracks are -correctly- narrower than what was used on the final production version of the T-54 (as a comparison I’ve used an individual track link from a Trumpeter kit on the photo). You need 90 per side (the resources I’ve read specified 91 for the actual tank), and you have an option to use a special link for every 20th track link. These links don’t have teeth, and are specially designed to mount the cleats that allow the tank to get better traction on snow or other difficult terrain. Unfortunately it’s not specified in the instruction, but that’s what you can use them for. (The instruction manual shows the cleats in a stored position on the mudguards.) The cleats in their storage position require some really thin plastic pins to hold them in place: first, the holes on the cleats are too narrow, second it’s almost impossible to clean these pins of the sprue gate… so I just used some thin evergreen plastic to replace them.
The headlight has an option to attach a protective wire cage around it; the plastic was very thin, and snapped the second I tried to remove it from the sprue, so I chose the other option.

Parallel to the work on the hull, I was working on the turret as well. As I mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of painting and weathering before ataching all the necessary parts, so only time will tell if they will stand out or not after all is said and done.

I have some serious decisions to make at this point. I would like to present the interior open somehow. Either I show the turret tilted up, with the gun being installed, or I simply make a “cutaway”. (I saw a photo on the T-54, T-55 group’s facebook page.)

The first version would be the most attractive solution, but the problem is I’ve installed everything already: ammunition, equipment, etc. A tank would be stripped out before the turret is lifted, so it would not be very realistic.
The second option would be to simply leave the top of the turret off- held up by a couple of plastic pegs, showing the interior off. (This way I don’t have to cut and saw into the plastic. With the King Tiger and other large tanks there are parts you can cut away easily; with the T-54 I would be taking a lot of detail away if I cut parts of the turret away. Since the driver’s position and the engine compartment are not very well detailed regrettably I will not cut into the hull, as there’s not much to display…

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.1

Well, the long awaited T-54-1 is here finally. I’m in the middle of several builds -somehow I ended up reviewing and building a lot of kits at the same time. Nevertheless this model got priority when it arrived, since it was something I really had an interest in.
I planned to build the Tamiya kit in my stash with the CMK interior set parallel, but until I can finish up the ones already started, I do not want to begin to work on new builds. Too bad, I guess. (I did start on the Tamiya last night, since I finished two out of three OKB kits, and the all Luchs as well -some left to be published at a later date.)

I would not start an essay on the tank itself; I’ll put it into my review to be sent to Armorama. I’ve used the references available on the T-54, T-55 research group on Facebook; I would like to thank everyone there for putting together such a comprehensive resource.

Short version of the review: the model looks really, really good. (I’m not trying to be a fanboy; it’s honestly a great kit.)

A slightly longer version:

Opening the box we are faced with a bewildering number of small sprues. MiniArt, as usual, followed its philosophy of modular kit design, which does help creating multiple versions of the same vehicle easily, however it does present a problem finding the sprues you need during building. Add to this the tendency of having to use several sprues during sub-assemblies, searching for sprues was a constant activity during the build. If you have the space it’s probably best to have them out and labelled visibly.

Fortunately there are only few of the notoriously thin plastic parts that are impossible to be cut off the sprue without breaking. One of the handholds for the turret was already broken in my sample, but I normally replace them with wire anyhow. It’s much easier than trying to clean up these extremely fragile and thin plastic parts.

The placement of the gates are sometimes a bit unfortunate: instead of having to clean off one edge, they sometime overhang, and this necessitate cleaning (cutting or sanding) two or three surfaces. This is especially notable in the case of the individual track links, where you will need to clean multiple sprue attachments from three faces (bottom, top, side) on all the track links… (I really, really like magic tracks, to be honest; they come pre-cut, ready to assemble. I have to confess: the assembly of tracks and the painting for ammunition are the two least favorite parts of model building for me, so anything that makes my job easier is welcome.)

The plastic is nice quality; soft enough and easy to work with. The detail is astonishing. From the texture of the turret to the casting numbers on the suspension units, everything just looks like a miniaturized version of the real thing. The torsion bar suspension is working, but I’m not sure how useful it is since the tracks will need to be glued together to make sure they are held in place. (The different panzer III variants by MiniArt had a workable track solution; it would have been nice to have this utilized on the T-54-1 as well.)

The interior followed the usual T-44 layout – that is to say it’s still closer to the T-44 than to the T-54 final version. The driver’s compartment sadly lacks a lot of instruments and whatnot… not that it’s going to be visible, but still. At least it’s there, unlike in the T-44 kits, so you have something to work with should you wish to improve the area. I have decided to use the rain cover for the driver’s hatch, which is something I’ve never seen before.

The turret interior, on the other hand, is really well done; most everything is in place.

I’ve left the engine unassembled for now- I’ve built a couple of these from the SU-122, SU-85, T-44, so I’ve decided to leave it out for now. I might finish it later and display it in front of the tank as I’ve done with the other kits. (There are differences between the V-34, V-44, V-54 engines, but they are not apparent immediately.)

The interior was painted and weathered the same way as I did with the T-44. In short: a dark brown basecoat with hairspray applied was oversprayed with Tamiya white for the sides and a grey-blue color for the bottom of the hull. A stiff brush and some water helped to create some moderate chipping I applied a light brown filter to make it more dirty and used. I’ve only added the smaller parts after I did the basic weathering; with the turret it might have been a mistake. (There are a lot of smaller bits that are white, and they might stand out if you paint and weather them separately. Time will tell.)

I tried to keep weathering restrained; after all the amount of chipping and rusting was normally minimal while the vehicles were operational. Maintenance does take care of these things normally.

The ammunition was painted using Vallejo’s new acrylic gold paint; the results are pretty good. I did not bother painting the tips for the ones that were placed into the rack. I’ve used photos for reference found in this website for painting.

The mudguards were finished separately before attaching them to the hull. One thing to keep in mind: do the PE straps first, and then add the toolboxes. I glued the boxes in first… In some cases the boxes were in the way, and it made attaching the straps difficult.

The AA machine gun is a pretty complex assembly, but the detail is really great. Cleaning up the sprue attachment points on the barrel is not easy, but possible. (There are aftermarket barrels available, but it would be a shame to throw the plastic out; it is very well detailed.)

The engine deck features some of those notoriously thin and fragile plastic rods MiniArt loves to include with their kits. I did not even attempt to cut them off the sprue; it was easier to fabricate similar parts from wire, and use those. (Added benefit: you cannot glue them accidentally to the plastic mounts, since the plastic glue does not work on metal.

The smoke canisters, as I said, were moulded as one piece, and the PE/plastic contraption that holds them in place are kind of fiddly to assemble. (The mechanism that allows ejecting them is modelled in great detail… sometimes I feel less is more.)

The model is certainly complex, and it’s easy to burn out; especially if you work on a review. What I did was to pace myself: once the larger assemblies (turret interior, mudguards, hull interior) was done, I just kept coming back to the model to add the smaller details a few at a time. I did the machine gun one night, “dressed up” the engine deck the next- it’s easier to make progress one step at a time.

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p5. (final instalment)

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You can find the previous parts of this review under the following links:

part 1.
part 2.
part 3.

and

part 4.

You can find the review I wrote of this model on armorama, and another review of a simplified version of the same kit here. In this last post we’ll finish up the vehicle.

Painting

 

Once the tracks were ready, I painted the sides of the lower hull olive green (Tamiya), then heavily dabbed on a dark brown/black/greenish mix of oil colors to simulate the color of dirty snowmelt; the reference I used was how buses look during the winter after a heavy snow… The same color went onto the road wheels as well, and once everything was dry, I installed the tracks. (I suggest leaving the return roller in a movable state so that you can do small adjustments if the tracks are a bit loose/tight.)

I masked everything with tape (the back of the engine compartment, the top of the fighting compartment, the tracks), and sprayed olive green onto the vehicle. The exact color does not really matter as it will be covered by white-wash (and the wartime “Russian green” was far from a standardized color in any way).

I gave the paint a couple of hours to dry, and covered the model with a semi-gloss varnish to have a surface for the decals to stick to. Since I wanted to go with the unique festive Christmas camo, I decided to use the large red dot decal that goes on top of the superstructure. (In retrospect it would have been better if I added the decal after I applied the whitewash.)

Since the red dot decal needs to conform a somewhat difficult topology (it goes over the fume extractor’s cover, the hatch and the armored observation hatches), it is given in three parts. Normally I would have elected to simply mask the area and spray the color, but since it’s a review I went with the decal option. There are some issues with this option. For one, it’s not going to be easy to pose the hatches open, unless you cut the decal up. (Difficult to do accurately.) The largest part went on relatively well, although the hinges of the crew hatch did present some problems. A generous application of decal setting solution immensely helped, but it was still not easy. I did manage to damage the decal with the brush trying to smooth it out and make it conform the raised details.

The part going over the extractor cover went on fine; the decal part going over the observation hatch, however was not that easy to apply. I could not put it on without forming a small fold at the corner. I trimmed it once the decal dried, and touched it up with some paint. Weathering also will help making these mistakes disappear. The decal is thin and of good quality otherwise; the casting texture is clearly visible underneath. All things considered it’s probably simpler just to mask the circle and paint it on using an airbrush.

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Once the decals were dry I applied another layer of varnish in preparation for the whitewash.

I have applied AK Interactive’s chipping fluid slightly diluted with an airbrush for the “hairspray technique”, and once it was dry, I went over with Tamiya’s flat white (also very slightly diluted). It was dry to the touch in about twenty or so minute, so I started on chipping. Wet the surface and with a toothpick I made small nicks on the paint. These were gently extended using a wet brush. As a second round of chipping I waited about a day- enough time for the AK Interactive product to become “less active”. (As you wait, it becomes more and more difficult to create chips.) I’ve prepared an approx 1% ammonia solution using an ammonia containing cleaning product (Windex is fine), and used this over the surface of the model. (Ammonia dissolves Tamiya paints.) With a bit more vigorous brushwork I was able to create smaller, finer chips and scratches. This method (Windex chipping) is very suitable for making subtly worn surfaces, and complements the larger chips created by the “hairspray” technique.

This is the step where I installed the back of the engine compartment. I noticed that the bolt holes are not drilled in, which was odd, since MiniArt was very careful to add other details which would not be visible once the model is completed, so I quickly drilled the holes myself.

Once everything dried, I applied yet another layer of varnish to protect the work so far, and sprayed over a very light “washable white” from Mig. (I’ve tried a lot of off-the-shelf weathering products in this build.) Most of this layer was removed using a wet brush; the purpose applying it was to create a light white, transparent layer over the green paint showing through the whitewash.

After THIS dried, you guessed correctly, yet another layer of varnish was added, and I went on painting the branches, and adding the decals. Which were -for the last time- sealed with varnish.

Once this was all done I dirtied up the chassis a bit using oil paints (some light filters of burned sienna, and blending in small quantities of different shades of brown), adding oil washes, and applying a thick layer of dirty snow slush made from dark browns, black and a tiny bit of green to the lower chassis and the running gear. I added some oil stains to the engine deck and the folded-down armor plate on the back (AK Interactive’s product diluted in white spirit applied in several steps), and some diesel stains to the external tanks (Vallejo’s product- as I said, I stocked up on weathering products lately…)

As a last step I glued the top of the fighting compartment on in an “opened” position, so that the interior is actually visible.

That’s pretty much it.

Overall the building was enjoyable, although I did run into some problems of the kit (and of my own making). Nothing is really deal-breaking; most of the problems can be either fixed or circumvent if you have a little experience in model building. If you like to be challenged -and not because you’re building a dog of a kit- this model will be perfect for you; however I don’t think it’s suitable for beginners. It’s also a considerable investment of time and effort; it is certainly possible to burn out, and just shelve it for a time. If you don’t feel like including much of the interior, go for the “light” version which has less parts and is considerably cheaper, too. My fiancee said I was nuts for building and painting this much detail (and enjoying it), so take my words with a grain of salt. One thing is for sure: I’m proud of this kit, treasure it for the achievement I feel it was building it, and I’m ready to move on to a simpler model (or two) -until the next one. (Which, I suspect, is going to be a T-54 version with over a thousand parts…)

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p4.

You can find the previous parts of this review under the following links:

part 1.
part 2.
part 3.

You can find the review I wrote of this model on armorama, and another review of a simplified version of the same kit here.

 

In this post we’re taking a look at the interior- and hopefully finishing it. (Well, most of it.)

 

Most of the components are installed; the basics are done. I’ve put in the engine for the photos sake, but will display it outside of the vehicle. The gun is installed, and only a couple of small bits and the fuel tanks were missing at this point. The assembly went together without any issues; even the bits on the steering mechanism fit into the transmission without any problems. (In other words: they fit like a glove with is pretty good considering we’re talking about a multiple part assembly.)

 

I’ve also put in the finishing touches for the interior. By and large it went together fine; the fit is remarkable. Two issues I ran into: the back of the fighting compartment is one of them. The issue is simply the following: it is made out of three sections. Once is the large firewall between the engine compartment and the fighting compartment. The second is the edge of the top of the engine compartment (which, unfortunately, is not covered by either of the back sections), and the third is the back of the superstructure. I did not anticipate that the armor plating on the engine compartment will be visible, so I had to paint the edge white after I installed it. The best would be to fill in the visible seam, but unfortunately I could not figure out how to do it. (I’ve already painted and weathered the to larger parts.)

 

 

 

At this point the fuel tanks, the oil tanks, the compressed air bottles, the handle of the fuel priming pump (which was blue in the T-34 I saw, so I painted it blue instead of red), the ammunition, and all the other bits and pieces are installed. The one issue: the ammo on the racks. They would need to fit into corresponding holes on the top of the fighting compartment, so make sure you align them perfectly. (Not like I did.) What I suggest you do is to leave them out until you’re ready to attach the top of the fighting compartment. This way you can gently adjust them while the glue sets into their proper position. Since I’m not planning to glue the top on, it’s not really much of an issue.

I finished the final touches of weathering on the transmission and other interior parts. I blended in some gun metal darkened with black paint onto the transmission, and highlighted the edges with steel color. It received several dark washes; I have used a damp brush to adjust where the washes flowed. I used some oil stain AK products with some dark grey pigments to make it looked used and dirty. The metal bands on the two sides, which help with the steering got a light Citadel zinc overcoat to simulate oxidation and heat damage (as these parts overheat a lot, which encourages oxidation).

The fighting compartment only received a moderate amount of weathering as I wrote in the previous post, since these vehicles were not in use for the years to develop heavy rusting, and the crew kept them relatively clean.

The sides of the superstructure were fitted with all the details. For some reason the propellant cases are marked to be painted green instead of the brass color every other case has. The crew light was painted using a Citadel technical paint. I first painted the bottom of the part silver, and then used the Citadel paint to stain the face of the light fixture. Since the paint flows more like a wash, it left the protecting wire frame relatively free of paint. (The extra was scraped off with a blade.) The effect is pretty good in my opinion. (I just noticed that there are no photos of the walls; will rectify the situation in the next post.)

 

The first step was to add the frontal armor plate. It’s a bit fiddly, and it’s easy to break off the suspension’s springs while you’re trying to navigate it into its place. (To be honest these springs will not be visible even from under the vehicle, so if they break off, they break off. Only you will know they’re not there. Once the front is on, you can attach the top of the engine compartment. It’s a large piece of plastic which has most of the fenders as well, and you will need them in order to attach the side plates.

I would have liked to do a cutaway version of the engine compartment, but could not really figure out how to, so I just closed it in. The flaps over the cooling vents can be positioned; however they would be invisible in the finished vehicle, as the armored vents completely cover them. The two pieces that go over them (Ca13, Ca14) have apparently three alternative placement (about 2 mm from each other), but the instructions do not give any indication what these options are, and why you would want to position these parts differently to begin with. Strange.

I’ve finished detailing the sides and the back of the fighting compartment, and glued them to the model. I’ve added some wires to the light and the electrical switch box on the right hand side to make them look a bit busier. Interestingly the pistol ports are not operable, unlike in the T-44. They are simply molded on the plastic, but it would have been nice to have this option.

The fit of the sidewalls and the back armor plate is tight but good; I did not have to use putty, or trim anything.

At this point the model finally looks like a proper tank destroyer, with the interior mostly finished. The hatches allow only a limited view of the interior, so I think I’ll display the model with the top of the fighting compartment lifted up. I’ll use either stiff wires or plastic rods to hold it off-center above the model, as a “cop-out cutaway”. (I was a bit reluctant to start cutting and sawing. With the next model I’ll do a real one, I promise, with the sides and top cut out.)

 

And finally, work has started on the tracks. The tracks are not workable (regardless of what the instructions claim), but they are fine nevertheless. The pins are too small to hold them together with glue, so they actually do fall apart once you assembled four-five pieces on their own. Hence: gluing. Normally I’m using Tamiya’s lemon based Lemonene cement; the only problem I have with this product is that it looks just like the retarder they sell… and the first couple of pieces I tried to glue with the paint retarder. (Yes I was curious where the brush from the jar disappeared, but not really focused on the issue. No, I’m not a very smart man.)

Anyhow, the best method to glue individual links together is to work in sections: do doubles first, and then assemble those into larger and larger sections. You have at least a couple of hours to adjust the sag before the glue sets completely, so it gives you time enough to assemble half section, wait a bit, and fit it over the running gear. (Every side is usually made up by two halves- at least this is how I prefer to do it. It’s easy to mix up the different sections for the two sides if you work with smaller ones.)

Now, onto the colors. I’ve chosen black as a base color simply because most of the Russian tanks I saw had trans that were black. No doubt it is a museum-related thing and not historical. First of all, why would anyone paint the tracks? Any paint and rust would rub off very, very, very quickly indeed once the tank starts moving. I’ve made this choice, however, because I wanted to have a “distinctive” look for my Russian tanks, and not use the same track painting and weathering methods that I use with the German tanks. (In reality most tank tracks have a very dull, steel color -they are a steel-manganese alloy-, which is covered with dust and rust in the recesses. Most of the rust, mud and any other contamination simply rubs off as the tracks rub against each other, the running gear and the ground.) I go with these “artistic licences” as if I really, really wanted to be accurate, I’d be working with only 50 shades of brown mostly. A little color here and there (even if it’s black) livens things up a bit.

Once the tracks were assembled, I used an acrylic spray paint to paint it black. (Grammatically incorrect, however it had to be done for the reference’s sake.)

After drying the first thing to do was to add a neutral wash by Mig. (I’ve got it in a discounted set for painting primer red, and have no idea what to use it for. It looks nice as dust/mud deposit.) The next steps will be adding a good thick slurry of pigments/oil paints to simulate the slush of snow and mud, and I’ll rub a silver pencil along the surface to simulate the parts that were worn to the bare metal. The guide teeth will be treated in a similar manner, since the drive wheels rub them shiny as they turn the tracks. (Silver pencils are great for simulating worn-down metal.)

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p3.

I’m continuing the SU-122 build and review- you can find the previous parts below:

Part 1

Part 2

You can find the photos of the parts and the instruction manual on armorama in my review, and you can find a comparison with the non-interior version of the same kit here.

If the gods will it, I should be ready in two more posts -and about two more weeks. (I hope.)

I had some constructive feedback which mentioned photo sizes. In further posts I’ll be experimenting the different options WordPress offers- thumbnails, galleries, etc. Please let me know if you have any suggestions -length, number of photos, quality of photos, style, anything. (I also would love to read comments on the models… after all, this is one of the reason for the blog.)

So, without further ado, onto the build:

Gun

The gun is not really difficult to build -except for the broken recoil guard, which I had to fix with glue. It was whole when the model came, but it snapped into three parts sometime during the build. I suggest you put this part aside before you touch the model, because it’ll break as you move the sprues around during the build. The hydraulic tubes elevating the gun are working (the two parts can move), however the way they are attached to the gun (glued to a PE holding bracket) makes this feature more like an option to fix the gun in any position you desire, than to make it adjustable after the gun is in place. In other words decide what position you’d like the gun in, put the it in place, and then glue the hydraulic tubes into place. Alternatively you can just forget about them, as they would not be visible, anyhow, and this would leave the gun movable. (In the non-interior version of this kit they are not included.)

A side-note: the wheel controlling the elevation of the gun is on the right side, between the gun and the wall of the fighting compartment… ergonomics was not a main concern when the vehicle was built.

I painted the gun in the “Russian” green color I’ll paint the whole vehicle with, and weathered it with oil washes, filters to make it look used and less uniform. Some wear-and-tear was simulated with painted chips (both black-brown and some metallic). The gun shield (not sure what it is- the fat protective shield around the base of the gun) is a three part assembly, with a prominent seam going along its length. Because the lifting hook is molded with one of the parts together, the filling and sanding requires a little care.


As you may notice the gun barrel is missing still- it is added once the gun is in its place. The plastic barrel has rifling on the inside; a pretty cool feature. One thing to mention: attach the gun barrel before you add the gun shield protecting it…

 

Engine and transmission

The building of the engine is pretty straightforward affair. The detail is pretty good, although no wiring/cabling guide is provided (which is a shame, really, but there is available reference material online). The transmission looks exceptionally well detailed; it is quite easy to see how the real thing worked once you assemble the model. The fit is really good; things snap together once in place. I painted the engine in a dark aluminium color, dry brushed it with brighter metallic shades, and weathered it using oil washes and Vajello’s engine grime product (I could not resist to try it). Some of the cabling was done using thin solder wire or Champagne bottle wire painted black (I used it to simulate cabling in the fighting compartment as well).

 

And the finished engine with the radiators attached.

 

Since I “dirtied up” the engine compartment, I added the transmission at this point because I wanted to display the model with the back folded down. I left the engine out so that it’s not going to be hidden once the model is done. (It’s a shame only the very top of it would be visible once the engine compartment is finished. Because I could not figure out how to create a realistic-looking cutaway of the engine compartment, I’m going to display it in front of the model like I did with my Hobby Boss T-34/85, and the MiniArt T-44.)

 

Some other parts: a really bent cover of the transmission… (Only my sample, apparently. I’m reviewing another SU-122 kit and the SU-85 by MiniArt, and they seem fine.)

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The cooling flaps on the engine deck are positionable; it’s a pity only the back ones will be visible; the rest will be covered up by plastic parts covering the engine deck.

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Well, that’s it for now. Next steps: putting the interior together.

 

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p2.

Well, the vacation is over, and the work resumes. (I also had to start going to the office which tend to hinder the work that matters…)

One issue is that I’m working on several sub-assemblies parallel, so it’s difficult to show how one particular one was worked on from start to finish in one go. This is how a build normally goes, but it does not lend itself very well to a thematic review.

To start with: I’ve done some work on the ammo… I counted how many I’d need and only used that many -I don’t want to work extra when it comes to cleaning and painting identical pieces of ammunition. Aside from cleaning track links this is my least favourite part of building a model. Tiny details, multiple copies make a repetitive and very delicate task.

 

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Sorted… there are two kinds of ammunition provided: one type goes onto the floor of the back of the fighting compartment, the other goes on the rack by the commander. They are supposed to be painted differently (faint green and olive green), and the ones on the floor receive a small plastic disc on which they will stand. I’m not sure what the different colors signify. Perhaps high explosive and armor piercing rounds were painted and stored differently, but the instructions do not shed light on this topic.

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Disclaimer: I have deviated from the instruction manual’s sequence of building, as I think it makes more sense to first build the overall structure of the vehicle and then fill it in with details. Should there were some minor fit issues, they’ll be easier to deal with as well.

The Tamiya white on the interior looked really artificial. To make it less uniform, and, well, less white, I used a very, very diluted filter (just burnt umber oil paint in turpentine). The effect was pretty good -the interior suddenly looked much more realistic.otbugyq

The engine compartment is looking better and better. Almost time to fill it up.

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Adding smaller parts to the fighting compartment: instruments, ammo holders, compressed air bottles, etc. I also used different dark-rust colors, and different types of paints (acrylic, oil) to simulate wear and tear. This is one contentious issue: most real tanks are pretty clean from the inside. Paint chips, rust streaks take an awful lot of time to develop; more time than these vehicles were in service -or indeed survived in a war. So while I do make it look a bit worn and rusted, I do it with the understanding that it is not how the real vehicles looked like. (Maybe the SU-100s still in service all over the would do look like this after 70 years. But not a tank that has been in service for only a couple of years.)

I’ve used my favorite Vajello German Camo Black-Brown for paint chips. This color is great for simulating old, rusted metal. I applied the paint chips using both a very fine brush and with a sponge. Where the effect was too stark, I went over with some white using a sponge. (Key thing about using a sponge is to make sure you dab most of the paint out of it onto a piece of paper.)
I also used various rust colors (from reddish brown to yellow) to simulate the different colored rust, and made some light washes using these colors to stain the lower part of the hull’s interior (to simulate dirt smears). It’s important to keep in mind that the smears are not applied in one step: you add the wash (usually oil paint and turpentine), then using a clean, moistened brush you blend the stains, and carefully adjust the amount of paint on the surface. Oils are great because of they are translucent, and have a long drying time.

I made the bottom especially worn where the driver’s feet are resting.

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I think I went overboard with the dirt and rust on the front of the hull, but I rectified it since then using the base color.

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I’m not sure how I will display the engine- it’s simply too hidden in the engine compartment. I might go the same way as I did with the T-34 and T-44: display it outside of the vehicle. The transmission, however can be built in; I’ll simply open up the back as if the tank was undergoing maintenance.

I have ordered a couple of new products: Vajello’s engine grime, petrol stain and diesel stain. I’ve tried the petrol in the middle of the engine compartment, and the diesel next to it… I have to say they look pretty convincing.

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Well, that’s it for now. The next post will be about the assembly of the gun and the engine. Please don’t hesitate to leave comments below; I always appreciate some constructive criticism. (Layout of the blog, the length of the posts, the size of the photos, the writing style, the amount of information, the techniques used… anything is free game. Just be gentle.)

 

 

 

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p1.

 

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And here it is: another multi-part review of a 1/35 kit… and one with a complete interior, no less. This is a model I’ve been waiting for since it was announced last year. I’ve written review on Armorama – now let’s see how it builds up.

Interior

I have deviated from the instructions – I would much prefer to first do the basic shape, and fill it up with the details after. The instructions go the opposite way: you first build all the sub-assemblies (engine, transmission assembly, the complete interior, etc.), then put them together. This makes painting and weathering a bit awkward (the two firewalls, for example, are installed separately: one goes in the middle of the build, and at the very end), and it also makes correcting small fit issues more difficult.

The build starts with the bottom of the hull, which is also the floor of the interior; it’s a pretty big change from the usual “tub” scale models come with.

As a first step I did all the interior parts that are painted in the blue-gray base color. This meant that I attached most of the supports for the engine and the transmission, the last four sets of suspension units (mistakenly I glued in an extra one), the swing arms’ holders, and the driver’s controls, and control rods. The model is very well made – everything lines up remarkably well. The swing arms that hold the road wheels fit exactly where they should, and the control rods attach to the central rod accurately. (We’re talking about tolerances of less than a milimeter here.) The instructions, for example, would have you attach the parts supporting the engine glue to the engine block -which means they would have to be painted and weathered separately. Easier to glue them in place and add the engine later.

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The controls and the connecting rods are very delicate and the cleanup is difficult. Astonishingly everything lines up perfectly (part C38 is the central, connecting rod, and all the others attach where they supposed to).

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Same story at the back: tiny parts which can disappear easily. 2016_07_02_004

 

First mistake: I glued a suspension unit in place that is supposed to be white… (background). This meant some serious masking later.2016_07_02_005

Sides

The basic hull is made out of the bottom and the two sides; the engine compartment is painted in the blue-grey color, the fighting compartment is white. I glued everything together that was to be painted in these base colors. The seat holders are -not surprisingly- very delicate.

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Front glacis- lots of stuff can be finished before gluing it in place.

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The gigantic spring are actual springs -they are hollow, and would work exactly like springs do if they were made out of metal. I’m pretty impressed by this feat in injection moulding. The cleanup, however, is brutal. (And yes. I did glue the instrument panel the other way around…) I’ll have to look up the wiring- although I suspect it’ll be semi-fictional.

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The armored flap in front of the driver is made out of several delicate pieces; pretty impressive affair.kquofqq

Top of the fighting compartment.

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The outside cupola  and the flaps have some impressive casting texture.6thkvet

 

Painting begins – base blue-grey mixed from Tamiya XF-25 and XF-18.

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Masking and the dreaded white white color… Due to the impatience I had to do some real elaborate masking so I could paint the suspension unit on the front… it worked, though.

Advice: do not glue these in place before painting. Another relevation spraying Tamiya’s flat white: do not dilute it. I sprayed it undiluted, and it was incredibly nice. (Additional insanity: I did not undercoat it…)

As you can see there were some elaborate masking steps necessary about the suspension unit using masking tape and tissue paper… such is the fate of the impatient.

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Assembly of the hull…

The hull’s sides are essentially held in place by the swing arms of the roadwheels. Make sure you cut the sprue at the right spot – and not cut off the small peg that holds the arm in place. The suspension is not workable (since the springs are plastic), but they, in theory, can be positioned however you like – but you’ll need to adjusted the springs holding them, too. It looks a bit overengineered to assemble the swing arms from three different parts, but it allows for some customization: depicting them in various states of disrepair.

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Putting in the firewalls – first things first. (The back of the second sets of suspension units should be painted blue-grey… this is why I prefer to do the build this way. It would be pretty inconvenient to repaint everything once the weathering is done.)

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Part Ca33 is pretty warped as you can see- however, when glued in place, most of it gets straightened out.

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You can see that part Ca33 is still somewhat bent.

 

So far this is it. There is work being done on the engine, and the gun as well – keep tuned in. (I’ll be going on a leave, so the next part will be in two weeks.)

MiniArt T-44 part.6 Finished at last

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Well, this has been a journey.

As a last step (well, series of steps) I added mud and dust to the tank. I did not want to make it look extremely muddy -probably not very realistic, and certainly not very appealing to the eyes. (Well, it’s a personal opinion.)

The other reason is that I’m not good with mud. I know. It’s horrible, but there you go: as far as mud goes I’m a noobie.

I’ll detail the process of mud-making, but unfortunately I have not made photos of the stages.

As a first step I mixed up earth colored pigments (from a railway model supply company), static grass and plaster in equal amounts. I added some water, and used this mixture  on the wheels, the mudguards, and the lower part of the chassis.

(Instead of water you can use white spirit, enamel thinner or even earth colored enamel/acrylic paints, or other products. I think. I’ll experiment with these.) I also used the thinner part of this mixture to create splashes on top and on the side of the chassis.

All looked well until it dried… due to the plaster the color shifted to a much lighter complexion. (You can see it on the photos that show the splashes near the driver’s hatch.)

Well, I did not get a heart attack despite of this; the review for Armorama was finished, so I was free to experiment.

I took a stiff brush, and started rubbing some of the mud mixture off on the sloping front and on the back; it made it look like it was washed off over time. So far so good.

The color issue I solved with burned umber washes (this color is the best friend of every model builder…). I dabbed a loaded brush on the lower parts, and let the capillary action draw the paint upwards. Repeated a couple of times, and the results are not half bad: the top is still faded, light color, representing very dry mud; while it gets darker to the bottom, representing the still wet, fresher mud. The fact that the wash and the original mud application left some “tide marks” actually works in my favor now -it looks pretty damn authentic. Real mud leaves these marks as it dries, too. I successfully turned a lemon into lemonade I think. (The application was more of an experimental one -let’s see if it works- rather than a conscientious application of skills…)

I did the same with the wheels. The static grass gives a nice volume, and some hint for vegetation caught up in the mud; I have to say I’m pleased how it turned out, and feel pretty silly for not using this before. (I bought the static grass back in the US in 2008… It spent some time in my mother’s attic since then, but still. It is a very useful addition for any modeller’s toolset.)

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The exhaust was treated with rust colored pigments mixed in enamel thinner. Once it tried different dark washes were added: simply loaded the brush and dabbed it onto the surface at random. The capillary action did the rest, creatinga nice-looking rusted look.

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The strap for the fuel tank was re-glued after the photo session

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I’ve used light brown pigments on top of the turret and the chassis both dry (just dabbed on with a brush), and mixed with enamel thinner. In this case I used a clean brush to carefully blend in the spots. Some remained a tad darker -as if it was still wet a bit. The reasons I’m not sure about yet, but it does kind of look good, so I’ll take it. Again: the result of a happy accident. (Perhaps I should have said it was pure skill… next time.)

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Parts of the tank were rubbed with dark steel pigment giving them a metallic shine. zyr6yyreszhgqr

For oil and fuel stains I used AK Interactive’s engine oil and fuel stain products. (I try to mix most of my stuff, but some are really useful.) First I created a very diluted solution, and made larger spots. Once dry I used a less diluted solution in the middle.This, with the dust layer underneath makes it look pretty good I think. (Second try on these products; and the first try I diluted them… The first try was not as convincing.)

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Oh, the engine. Let’s not forget about the engine. I’m planning to display it just as I did with the T-34/85 – in front of the tank.

The engine block received the same bluish base color as the interior (I’m fairly certain the engine was bare metal, but I liked the color). The top was painted anthracite, and was rubbed with dark steel pigment -it gave it a nice, metallic sheen. (The same effect can be achieved with ground up graphite.)

The exhaust pipes were first painted with anthracite, same as the engineblock’s top. I mixed rust colored pigments with enamel thinner, and used this mixture to add a basic rust color and some texture to them. I’ve used soldering wire for the wiring. I’ve seen some amazing works which shows the ignition wires yellow, but watching this video of an ISU-152 I think it’s safe to go with silver.wwpg9nr

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Well, here it is. The deed is done. I need to attach the antenna, and mount it in a display box. Just in time for the MiniArt SU-122 with complete interior and the T-44M I’m reviewing… Keep tuned in; I have several interesting models from MiniArt and OKB to review.

MiniArt T-44 Build review p5.

Well, further work is ongoing on the T-44: weathering.

The tank was first treated with AK Interactive’s filter for green vehicles. (I’ve made a purchase of a couple of these products, and wanted to try them out.) Interestingly the paint simply flaked off at the mudguards in reaction to the filter. I think the acrylic primer coat did not react well to the solvent; it’s not a promising sign. I think I’ll keep to the home-made stuff in the future – it’s not difficult to make, and it’s gentler on the paint. The damage was not actually bad; I could use white glue to simply fix the large flake, and it actually looks pretty real -if you look at vehicles, the paint sometimes does flake off on thinner metal plates.

Regardless it’s not something I want to experience again.

Strictly speaking you don’t need filters; I like to use them because they are great for modulating the base color. I used several types of green (olive green by Citadel, dark green, Russian green by Tamiya mixed with tan), but I needed some orange-yellowish hue to this green. Filters are great way to achieve this. (A blue filter is also great for a German grey vehicle, for example.)

Chipping

I wanted to try the Windex method, however the Windex did not arrive in time, so I went back to plan B: painting the chips. I’ve used Citadell’s Goblin Green to paint scratches and chips onto the surface of the tank. I’ve used both a thin brush and a sponge dabbed into the paint. (Make sure you dab the sponge onto some paper first, to get rid of most of the paint. Remember: you can always add more later. It’s harder to remove the unwanted paint.) I eyeballed the model, and tried to put the chips where the surface is most exposed to wear and tear: corners, edges, protruding parts, etc. It’s worth doing it in several steps: do a session, put it away until next day, take a fresh look at the model, add some more chips.

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In the second step I used a dark brown paint to paint in the middle of the green chips, simulating the exposed metal. Here the same principles apply: the less is more. Use a brush, a sponge, and do it in sessions. The results are pretty convincing.gjge7xdji9rpmz

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The flaking paint is obvious on the lower left corner; it kind of looks realistic, though.

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Decals

Once the filter was dry, I used a semi-gloss vanish to form a base for the decals. I’ve chosen the most colorful option with all the crests and huge text on the front. After they dried, I applied another layer of varnish, and on came the washes. tienpmn4xg0qly

I used the Mig Productions dark wash as a pin wash, and also used it as a general wash on the turret to bring out the casting details. After about 15-20 minutes I used a damp brush (loaded with white spirit) to remove most of the wash from the turret, and to “tidy up” the pin washes. This step is necessary, as the wash often forms a “tide mark” on the surface. By applying a damp brush with downwards strokes you can actually use it to your advantage, and form the first very faint streak lines.
I have to admit I’m not a fan of general washes, so I was pretty worried that I just messed up the turret; especially that I was not sure when the paint will start being rubbed off -the wash did cling to the surface quite tenaciously. At the end it worked out fine, but it was still a harrowing experience.
Two days after the wash was applied, I used Testor’s Dullcote to form a flat surface for the next steps.

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The next step was to use oil paints straight out of the tube. On the flat, sloping surfaces I used them to create faint streaks, but on most other places I used them to give some tonal variation to the green color. I used a greenish/yellowish color on corners, which was followed with burnt umber later on.

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You can see how the edges, corners were shaded with oil paints on the photo above. I mostly used burned umber. Just a tiny dot of paint is enough, which is blended into the base color with a dry brush gently. Oil colors are quite transparent, so they’ll be perfect for this purpose. On the flat horizontal surface I used yellows and greens to give some tonal variation for the paint.j9enhhruijux41

The next step was to use yellow, rust brown, burned umber to create streaks on the vertical surfaces. Again: a tiny dot of paint is blended with downwards motion, but this time with a slightly wet brush. The streaks are gently shaped from the sides as well with a clean, wet brush, if they become too wide or too prominent.

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After this my least practiced part of model building: dust and dirt.

MiniArt T-44 Build review p4. Coming together

 

Well, this is when the tank is starting to take shape, and resemble an AFV. The top of the turret was glued in place finally, hiding a lot of the details in the interior. (I was tempted to do a “cutaway” version, but I could not find a part I was comfortable cutting away; the whole of the interior is crammed with things.) The turret roof is a very thin piece of plastic; I think it’s pretty close to scale thickness. (I don’t have the instruments to measure it accurately, though.)

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The interior of the turret is quite busy, and frankly brilliant. The fume extractor, the small lights, the radio, the turret cranking mechanism, all the other details are just great. You do get the fan for the fume extractor, but it will be hidden by the PE cover. The periscopes are made out of transparent plastic. The commander’s cupola has the very fine teeth where the cupola’s turning mechanism is meshed to; small details like this make the model really shine. I was worried about installing the PE holders for the pistol gun port plug, but they snap on surprisingly easy (considering how small the pieces are). I think there might be a chain holding the plug itself in the real tank, but it was not included; if you want to depict them open, you’ll need to add the chains.

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Pistol port…dqoxvvsk8v5wcc2ucbmsrw6kvldlo5wmqtg

Once all was done inside the hull, I started to add the armor plates protecting the front and the top. The frontal, angular plate fitted perfectly. (I would suggest leaving the splash guard off until the front plate is in place.) The top plate is probably scaled so that it’s scale thickness (it’s noticeably thinner than the side or frontal plates), however, there were some fit issues with it. Nothing that some patience could not solve: I went ahead and did what I did with the hull and the mudguards, and glued it on section by section, while holding the hull in place with clamps. Once the model was reasonably ready, I added the extra bits which I left off. I usually attach the tools, headlights, etc. last, so that I don’t damage them in subsequent steps of the build.

 

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I chose to attach the mudguards before I installed the running gear; I think it would be better to do the other way around. The detail is pretty good, and the assembly is straightforward to build. The problem is that the attachment to the hull is somewhat problematic. First of all, there are no locating holes on the sides for the little pegs on the mudguards; you either drill these out, or cut the pegs off. Once everything is on, the PE straps “holding” the external fuel tanks need to be installed. These are two-part assemblies each: one metal strap and one tiny U shaped part that is originally welded to the hull, and used to fasten the strap to.

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Before installing the road wheels and tracks I’ve painted the side of the hull green, and muddied it up with several layers of pigments dissolved in white spirit. I used light brown colors first on the side, and then went darker and darker, making sure I cover smaller areas with the subsequent layers. I also used a clean brush moistened with white spirit to adjust the layers once they dried.

 

The road wheels are simple to assemble, however, the peg that supposed to hold each wheel is tiny (about 3 mm long…) In theory you can assemble the wheels so that these pegs can rotate, but I did not bother with this; they were glued in. I also used epoxy glue, as I said, to make sure the wheels stay in place once attached to the swing arms –and since I will display the model on a flat surface, I also glued the torsion bars in place… Leave the return rollers and the drive wheels off; the tracks will be simpler to attach if you attach them together. The tracks are really nice; the detail is very good on them, but as I mentioned, they are not “workable”. You will need to glue them on. I could not put the whole 70+ link assembly together without it coming to pieces, so I just assembled sections, applied thin model glue to the joints, waited an hour, and then put them in place. Once the tracks were dry, I removed them (I left them in two large pieces on each side), painted and weathered them, and glued them in place for good.

The tracks were painted dark grey first, and then I used similar dark brown pigments diluted in white spirit to add rust and dirt. I keep seeing incredibly muddy tracks on models, where the pattern is essentially hidden by the caked-on pigments, which is not very realistic. (Well, there ARE instances; the spring/autumn mud in Russia would put a lie to this statement.) Nevertheless, I opted for a relatively clean set of tracks, as any movement would wipe and shake most of the dirt off. In fact, five-ten minutes of movement would polish the tracks shiny, and free of rust.

For green I started with Tamiya’s Dark Green. I fogged it onto the black primer, and then added subsequent layers lightened with yellow. The color will be further modulated with yellowish filters, and then with the dot filter method.

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Now it looks like a tank…tvtezwf

There is one major problem with the turret ring: the turret does not fit well. As usual with tank models, the turret is attached by sliding two little pegs into two corresponding openings, and then rotating it. This should lock the turret in place. The problem, as far as I can see, is that these pegs are very tiny, and simply do not hold the turret (or cannot click into place to begin with). Gluing a bigger piece to the turret to hold it better might solve this issue. The problem is for me is that the tank was ready when I ran into this, and it’s difficult to play around with it without breaking parts off. To be honest I was thinking about displaying the turret on a stand to show off the interior better, so I might side-step this issue; it would be a shame to glue it in place, as it would hide all the interior details.

 

Final small parts added… I try to leave these off until the very end- not to risk breaking them.dh7mu0f

The upgraded tow cables; I used the hooks of the plastic part, and replaced the plastic part of the wire with metal.kjjhisbblug4mwwrmqp4r

The cable is held by folding PE holders; it does not need to be glued in place.chvpggmf8oc8stgvsm4yj

The extra track links are also held by PE parts; the installation went on without a problem.gilkuzi1

And here is the tank -all done with the building. Still prone to lose it’s head easily -something I’ll have to figure out how to fix-, but ready for weathering. Next step: Windex chipping3xmpnhx